WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — She was living the American dream after she was raised in the United States and built a family and a life in Florida.
But all that changed last year for a local Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient.
Now she is nearly 2,000 miles away from her husband and children, stuck in Mexico after an interview with the U.S. embassy there.
A year and a half ago, Lucia Trujillo could hold and hug her children.
"To be honest, I've cried so much to the point where I just need people to hear me and make it viral, so they don't make the same mistake," Lucia Trujillo said.
She is a DACA recipient, meaning she has deferred action from deportation because she arrived in the United States from Mexico as a child.
She grew up in Belle Glade, graduated from Glades Central High School and earned a business specialist college credit certificate from Palm Beach State College.
Six years ago, she got married and has two beautiful young boys.
"She lived the American dream from the time she was young up until a year and a half ago, and it was taken from her," said her husband, Francisco Trujillo.
In March 2020, Lucia traveled from her home in Clewiston to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, for an interview at the U.S. embassy.
She wanted to file for an immigrant visa to become a permanent resident in the U.S. But in her application, she voluntarily disclosed that she entered the U.S. illegally twice when she was 2 years old and 7 years old.
"It's common for many families to leave the United States to go back home to Mexico to visit a family member that is sick, or for whatever reason, and then they reenter again because they want to obviously to live here," said Jacob Sapochnick of Sapochnick Law Firm. "They have already built a life here. People find ways to come back and forth, as you know, and so that's what happened to her."
Sapochnick, who is based in San Diego, is Lucia's immigration lawyer.
He said the issue is that the U.S. embassy would have likely pardoned her for one illegal reentry but not two.
Sapochnick said he would have never advised her to leave the country to fix her status.
"There are ways to try to get it from here, maybe apply for advanced parole under her DACA," Sapochnick said.
On the spot, she was denied reentry into the United States for 10 years.
At that time, her youngest son was only 1 year old. Since then, she's missed milestones including birthdays.
"I have to play mom and dad basically. And [our] kids, they need their mother," Francisco Trujillo said.
Lucia said in Mexico she's been a victim of hit and runs and a robbery while shopping at the market.
"There was a time where I felt blue, and it was hard for me to get up out of bed," Lucia Trujillo said. "I just keep my faith, and I keep being strong and just stay positive because I know there is a way to come back home to my children and my husband."
She's now working with Sapochnick to find other ways to get her back home to Florida.
On Change.org, a petition filed by "Dreamers" like her has more than 3,600 signatures calling for support from local congressmen and women.
"Once somebody is already denied at a U.S. embassy it's very difficult to fix it, and it requires a lot of pressure on the embassy, maybe working with a local congressman to see if we can get support," Sapochnick.
The Trujillos pray for a resolution and hope for a change in the law so they can be reunited again soon.
"It’s sad to say, [but] maybe we had to be the ones that had our family shattered in order for there to be light shine upon it," Francisco Trujillo said.
So, what is the main mistake many immigrants make in trying to get their immigrant visas?
Sapochnick said in many cases for DACA recipients they are not aware of their past family history when they entered the United States.
He recommends anyone seeking legal status request records through the Freedom of Information Act from the government to see if there are any records from their parents' entries or reentries into America.